The world’s top 10 horse breeds

By Nicola Jane Swinney on |

6 Comments

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Horses are as different as they get. The world counts more than 350 horse and pony breeds, ranging from strong, sturdy Clydesdale to  graceful, slender Thoroughbreds, and picking a favourite is very much a personal choice. Here are my top ten horse breeds:

Arabian

arab

A lot of people dislike Arabs, but I think they dislike the way they are shown, rather than the breed itself — the “continental” style of showing has the horse very wound up, with its neck stretched up and out and its head held too high. Yet to me, the Arabian is what every pony-mad little girl draws — huge eyes, tiny ears, arched neck and long, flowing mane.

Image by Andrea & Stefan via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Andalusian

pre horse

One of the few breeds that has no Arabian influence, the Andalusian — sometimes called the PRE, or Pura Raza Española — is an ancient breed that has been around for millennia. The Greek cavalry officer, Xenophon, highly praised the “gifted Iberian horses” and their role in helping Sparta defeat the Athenians around 450 BC.

Image by Yeguada Algaida via Flickr, public domain

Connemara

connemara

Well, everybody loves the Connemara. It has the hardiness and sure-footed athleticism that means it can do practically any job, as well as enough beauty for the show ring. Crossed with the Thoroughbred, it makes an excellent sport horse; that dash of pony blood helps the show jumper, eventer or hunter find that sometimes-vital “fifth leg”.

Image by Final Gambit, public domain

Clydesdale

clydesdale

A bit off the wall, this. I’m no beer drinker, but anyone who has seen those Budweiser adverts will be hooked on the Clydesdale too. Of course, it’s all training and camera work, but I’m convinced those marvellous horses do have a sense of humour.

Image by Holly Golabeck via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Dales

dales1

I love all the UK’s native pony breeds but there’s something about the Dales that really appeals to me. Aficionados claim there’s nothing that this breed cannot do and the more I see of it, the more I like it. And someone told me of the Dales: “They have a typical native brain. They’re never nasty, but they think themselves hilarious.”

Image by Claire Cox via Flickr (cropped), CC BY-ND 2.0

Friesian

friesian2

It is known as the “Black Pearl of the Netherlands”, and no wonder. The coal-black Friesian was originally a warhorse, but has been refined over the years, with Arabian and Spanish blood adding beauty and noble bearing. It makes a spectacular carriage horse, but is athletic enough for many equestrian sports.

Image by Larissa Allen, CC BY-SA 3.0

Irish Draught

Irish Draught

Think “draught” and the image of a lumbering “cold-blooded” heavy horse may come to mind. But the Irish version is far from that mental picture. Some top show horses, including the multi-garlanded maxi cob Hallmark IX and heavyweight hunter Loughkeen Dancing Lord, are full Irish Draught. It also makes an excellent sport horse when crossed with Thoroughbred, but this success could be the agent of its downfall, as the gene pool of pure ID is ever diminishing.

Image by Losmurfs, CC BY 2.5

Lipizzaner

lipizzaner1

I am lucky enough to have seen the “dancing white horses” in the baroque splendour of the Spanish Riding School of Vienna and have never forgotten it. They live up to their billing.

Image by Pluto Theodorosta (edited), CC BY-SA 3.0

Paso Fino

Paso fino

I’m not, in general, a fan of horses of the Americas. But the Paso Fino — which means “fine step” — intrigues me. Its smooth lateral gait is said to be supremely comfortable for the rider, with little up-and-down movement in the quarters or shoulders, and is inherited, rather than taught. It is also a horse of great beauty.

Image by Jean via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Warmblood

oldenburg

All right, this is a cop out, because how do you choose between a Trakehner and a Holsteiner, an Oldenburg or a Hanoverian? The warmblood is the success story of our times and can be seen in every arena. I wonder what the next chapter will be…

Image by Perry via Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0

What is your favourite breed? would you have picked a different selection? Let us know in the comments (please note that comments are moderated and don’t appear immediately after posting).

Top image: Frisian horse by Jean via Flickr (edited), CC BY 2.0

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6 Comments

  1. Emily Rovai

    Yay! Paso finos made the list! They are the most beautiful and naturally gifted and gaited than any other breed ! They are extremely intelligent and highly spirited ( we call brio). Beautiful and one of a kind.

    Reply
  2. Caroline Robinson

    What about the coloured cob! Mine events to BE100 level with scope to go further!

    Reply
  3. Junior G

    An Andalusian is any horse born in Andalucia. A PRE is a bred horse, only horses from the PRE Studbook and Mares from their breeding program are allowed. Crossbreeding with warmbloods has been allowed now too to get them more suitable for international Shows. PRE and Andalusian are not synonomous.

    Reply
  4. Helen Rayson

    The Welsh section D best native breed by far! And the Dutch warmblood KWPN! Stunning and intelligent both of them, I have one of each obviously both for dressage a cross would be amazing!

    Reply

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